As any regular reader of our blog knows, Jill & I cook with tomatoes a lot. We grow our own during the summer and continue exploring recipes with them when winter comes – often with fresh and canned tomatoes we pick up at the supermarket. Well last night our eyes were opened and we may have to reconsider the way we buy our winter tomatoes. Award winning film maker and environmental health advocate Penelope Jagessar Chaffer gave a talk at The YinOva Center on how to be a non-toxic New Yorker and to our surprise, our beloved red fruits did not escape her gaze. 

We already knew that getting our tomatoes delivered from Florida in December create a sizable carbon footprint. What we didn’t entirely understand was the ways they are treated and packaged to preserve their seeming freshness can involve potentially toxic chemicals. From pesticides and stabilizers, to the estrogen-mimicking liners of metal cans that leach into the foods, this was not something we liked hearing.

The bottom line: living in New York Penelope says, we are regularly marketed better looking, fresher smelling, quicker acting products, from food to cosmetics and household cleaners, that are, quite frankly toxic. In amongst the eye opening statistics though, she had good news: tangible ways to recognize and make healthy choices about the products we use in and on our bodies.

Penelope’s talk The Ultimate Guide to Being a Non-Toxic New Yorker was a revealing discussion about how to transform our lives with some really simple steps. By reading labels and finding out what an unpronounceable ingredient really is, and asking questions like “What does green dry cleaning actually mean?”, we can become what Penelope calls “internal environmentalists”.

Of course awareness is just the beginning. Penelope also had lots of information on ways to take action, including the power of voting with your wallet and how to talk to kids about healthy choices. She also talked about the importance of supporting legislative initiatives such as NYS Senators’ Schumer and Gillibrand’s call for product labeling transparency, such as with sunscreens (which Jill also wrote about here).

Penelope’s film Toxic Baby is a blend of music, animation and hard science about the increasing exposure that our children face to thousands of harmful chemicals in everyday products. The film’s website features more information, resources and ways to detoxify your world.

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